By Jack Williams
This series first appeared in the World Cup Issue of 8by8mag, available now.
Ecuador: Felipe Caicedo
Somewhat of a club journeyman by the age of 25, Caicedo has been Ecuador's focal point for almost a decade. He was once compared to Brazilian striker Adriano, and fans will be hoping that his similar traits -- great strength and a rocket of a shot -- can blast Ecuador out of one of the easier groups in the tournament. They face France, Switzerland, and Honduras.
Switzerland: Xherdan Shaqiri
One of the most exciting prospects in the world of soccer, the 22-year-old winger is learning from the best at Bayern Munich, having joined a squad that includes Ribéry and Arjen Robben, in 2012. Known for his pace, control, and mesmerizing dribbling ability, Shaqiri, formerly of Basel, has already racked up more than 30 caps for Top 10-ranked Switzerland, who will be hoping to get out of one of the tournament's easier groups. Their best World Cup performance was reaching the quarterfinals on home soil in 1954.
France: Hugo Lloris
Off the back of a season that involved hundreds of saves and one major concussion, captain Lloris, known for his catlike reflexes, continues to certify his place as the No. 1 for the nation that previously produced Fabien Barthez. French fans will be hoping for similar flexibility from a group of players who are as unpredictable as they are talented. Finalists in 2006, Les Bleus' transformed into Les Sulks, making for a shambolic showing last time around.
Honduras: Roger Espinoza
A neat and tidy player who is comfortable either as a wing back or in the middle of the park, Espinoza has incredible stamina levels that make him the engine of this Honduras team. While Bengston's and Costly's goals helped Los Catrachos through the qualifying stages, many acknowledge that Espinoza's work rate could be just as crucial when they come up against tougher opposition in the tournament. Honduras have failed to win a game in their previous two World Cups (1982 and 2010).
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